Today marks the last day of league play for Area 8-AAA, and for a lot of local teams, it's win-or-go home time.
On the girls' side, five teams are fighting for the final two playoff spots. On the boys' side, three teams are still alive for the final two spots.
The top four teams in 8-AAA qualify for the Class AAA state playoffs, which begin April 29.
Johnson (10-2 in league play) and Oconee County (9-1) have clinched the top two spots on the girls' side, but Gainesville, North Hall, West Hall, White County and Chestatee all have 8-3 records and must win today to advance to state.
Chestatee plays at White County, and West Hall plays at Gainesville so that will eliminate two teams from contention. If North Hall can beat Oconee County at home, the Lady Trojans will throw their name in with the winners of the other two games to create a three-way tie for the final two spots.
The tiebreakers go as follows: 1) Record against all 8-AAA teams, 2) Head-to-head record of teams tied (doesn't apply in the case of a three-way tie), 3) Goals allowed in head-to-head games of those schools tied, 4) Goal differential of those tied, and 5) Goals allowed in area games.
The Lady Trojans have won their last two games in the sudden-death penalty kick round over Gainesville and White County. A loss in either game would have eliminated them.
"We've been battling hard all year and we were able to sneak out a win the last two games," Lady Trojans coach Nathan Wallace said. "We feel like we have the ability to compete with Oconee, and they're a very good team. Anything can happen."
Gainesville beat Johnson Friday to keep their playoff hopes alive.
"The way we're looking at it, we're already in the playoffs," Lady Red Elephants coach Mark Wade said. "Beating Johnson on Friday was the first round, and (today) is the second round."
Wade said he knew 8-AAA would be competitive even before the season started.
"I knew when Creekview, Lambert and Flowery Branch moved out (of the old 7-AAA) and then I looked at Oconee and some of the other teams we added, I felt it would be really even," Wade said. "Nobody (in this year's 8-AAA) was head-and-shoulders above everyone else. Last year, Creekview and Lambert were real strong, and basically gave everyone a region loss, so I guess that made things more clear-cut."
On the boys' side, Johnson (11-1) and Gainesville (10-1) have the top two spots, while North Hall and Oconee County are 8-3, and West Hall and Chestatee are 7-4. Walnut Grove is 8-4, but are mathematically eliminated via tiebreakers. West Hall is also eliminated.
Chestatee can get into the playoffs by beating White County today if North Hall also wins over Oconee County. That would eliminate Oconee and give Chestatee the No. 4 seed. However, if North Hall loses, it becomes the No. 4 seed and Oconee County the No. 3 seed, regardless of if Chestatee wins.
The War Eagles snuck past West Hall in sudden death PKs, eliminating the Trojans and keeping their own playoff hopes alive.
"Our history as a team, it's always come down to the last week of the season for us," War Eagles coach Michael Herrin said. "We felt at the beginning of the season this was one of the best team's we've had here."
He said despite Monday's nail-biting win, his players will still have enough left in the tank for today's contest against White County.
"Endurance is one of our strengths," Herrin said. "We're very well conditioned. Sometimes, we play our best when our backs are against the wall."